Marrakech, the so-called Red City, is actually many shades of dusty terracotta, a complex crossroads of a place within reach of cool high Atlas valleys and windsurfing Atlantic beaches. One of the furthest western extremities of the Islamic world, it is a surprisingly open city, it is many historical and social influences resulting in an air of tolerance and a sense of possibility. The tourist capital of Morocco, it has most of the country’s attractions in concentrated form, its markets, music and performers almost omnipresent to its palaces, museums and gardens. The city’s alleyways, tanneries and souks could keep explorers busy for months.
At the centre of the city is a wonderful juxtaposition of high religion and earthy populism: the elegant 12th-century Koutoubia Mosque and the hectic Jemaa El-Fna square. This is the setting for one of the world’s greatest cultural spectacles – a seething mêlée of musicians, snake-charmers, storytellers, water sellers, juggles, acrobats, henna artists, fortune-tellers, market traders, potion mixers and food vendors (selling everything from cinnamon tea to stewed sheep heads).